Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Out of the Past. C+

Jacques Tourneur's stylish noir 'Out of the Past' bears some strong resemblances to David Cronenberg's 2005 film 'A History of Violence' (which almost made my top 10 of the decade list). Both movies are about a man living a simple life when his violent past catches up with him. The idea in both movies is that you cannot escape your past without confronting it first. Though 'Out of the Past' is considered a classic, Cronenberg's picture is the far superior of the two. While 'A History of Violence' was impeccably crafted with a slew of mesmerizing characters, 'Out of the Past' is simply severely misguided, focusing far too much on a convoluted plot rather than the central character (Jeff Bailey, played by Robert Mitchum). The result is a rushed movie that tries to do far too much in its slender running time of an hour and a half. The reason 'A History of Violence' worked so well is because the main character in that film wasn't given a particular mission, which in turn gives the movie much more time to focus on the people. But in 'Out of the Past,' Mitchum's character is thrown into a whirlwind of deceit and blackmail in an attempt to recover some tax dollars. The plot isn't bad, but just too crammed with twists and turns for such a short movie. 'Out of the Past' isn't terrible. It's sort of fun to go along for the ride, but it's a shame that the idea couldn't have been shaped out differently. Then it really could have been a gem, equal, if not better than Cronenberg's masterwork.

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